Next Steps: Connecting Steps

Categories: Next Steps

Welcome to Connect. I’m so glad you’ve joined us for our Night of Worship tonight. It’s been an awesome night together, and I’m really excited to share this message with you tonight.

We’re in the middle of a series called Next Steps. In this series, we’re looking at the next steps that we all need to take, because like we said last week, everyone has a next step. Wherever you are in your walk with Jesus, there is a next step for you to take.

Last week, we talked about seeking steps. What if you don’t really believe in Jesus, but you’re curious? You want to seek out the truth about Him. You want to seek to know if there’s anything to all this Jesus stuff or not. We talked about the next steps that you can take last week. And if you weren’t here, you can check out the message online at connect.cc.

Tonight, we’re moving on to some more next steps. After seeking steps come connecting steps. That’s what we’re talking about tonight.

I want to pray for us, and then we’ll jump in.

When our church completely relaunched as a portable church in a new location a couple of years ago, we also relaunched under a new name. But what you may not realize is how much work and how much discussion when into finding that new name. We worked for months on a name. At one time, we had a list of around 50 potential names. But through a lot of work, a lot of discussion and debate, we finally landed on Connect Christian Church as our name. It seems strange, because I remember how hard it was to land on that name. And now, I can’t imagine the name of our church being anything else.

Connect is perfect for us, because that’s our mission. We exist to connect people to Jesus Christ by leading them into a growing relationship with Him. And tonight, we’re going to talk about that connection. And we’re going to talk about some next steps that some of us might need to take to make that connection, or to deepen that connection. And to do that, we’re going to explore a couple of verses that the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament book of Philippians.

At the beginning of chapter 2, Paul wrote, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2, NIV)

In these verses, Paul talks about two connections that are critical. First he talks about our connection with Christ, and then he talks about our connection with His church. And we’re going to spend our time tonight unpacking these two connections.

It starts with our connection with Christ. Paul talks being united with Christ. He tells us that our encouragement, our comfort from His love and from the Holy Spirit all come when we are united with Christ. It all starts when we are connected with Christ.

So here’s my question…how do you know you are connected with Christ? If you asked a lot of people in the church that question, they would say things like, “Well, I feel like I’m connected to Christ.” That’s awesome, but I didn’t ask, “Do you feel like you’re connected to Christ?” I said, “How do you KNOW you’re connected to Christ?” Because feelings are fickle. Feelings and emotions are stupid. They don’t have any cognitive reasoning. They just do whatever, whenever.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, I felt like I wanted Taco Bell for lunch. I hardly ever eat fast food anymore, but for some reason, I felt like Taco Bell would be a good idea for lunch. Later on, my feelings about that decision changed dramatically.

But that’s what feelings do. Feelings come and go, with no rhyme or reason. So that means that if you feel like you’re connected with Christ today, you might feel like you’re unconnected from Him tomorrow. That’s the nature of feelings.

But what about facts? What about truth? Truth always trumps feelings. Always. How do we know that we are connected with Christ? The great news is, we can actually know. Scripture gives us some solid, measurable ways to know that we are connected to Him. And for some of us, these are actually the next steps that we need to take.

It all starts with what we believe.

In Mark 16, Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16, NIV)

It all starts with what we believe about Jesus. If that faith isn’t there, none of the other stuff matters. It starts with believing that Jesus really is the Son of God. That He really was born of a virgin. That He really did live a sinless, perfect life. That He really did die on a cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. And that He really did rise again three days later, to give us a brand new life.

It starts with what we really believe about Jesus. And again, if you’re not sure about all of that, please check out the message from last week. That’s exactly what we talked about last week.

But this week, we’re talking about what we do if we really do believe in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, then the Bible gives you some very clear next steps.

The next step is to confess your faith in Christ.

We’re not talking about confession in the Catholic sense, where you sit and confess your sins to a priest. We’re talking about speaking up about your faith in Christ. Declaring it publicly.

In Romans 10, Paul wrote, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13, NIV)

Confession is when we are not ashamed to declare our faith in Jesus. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s an on-going process throughout our lives. We call on His Name. We confess that we believe in Him. We are not ashamed to speak about our faith in Jesus. That’s the idea here.

And along with confession, there is repentance.

In Acts 3, the Apostle Peter said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” (Acts 3:19, NIV)

That’s exactly what repentance means. It means to turn around. To repent means to do a 180° turn. To turn from sin and to turn toward God.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll be perfect, but it means you want to turn from a life of pursuing sin to a life of pursuing Jesus. That’s what repentance is.

And hand-in-hand with confession and repentance, there is baptism. Now, for some reason, this one has become controversial. This is the one that a lot of people want to argue about. Nobody argues about the need for belief, or confession, or repentance. But a lot of people seem to want to argue about baptism.

Here’s the thing, though. When you put aside all your preconceived ideas, you see that Scripture really presents the idea of baptism in tandem with these other steps.

For example, we saw a minute ago that it all starts with faith. It all starts with what we believe. But look again at the connection that Jesus makes.

He said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16, NIV)

Jesus links belief and baptism very, very clearly.

We read earlier about confession. And Paul reminded us that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But look at how he also presents baptism in tandem with that idea of calling on the name of the Lord.

In Acts 22, Paul said, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16, NIV)

Look at what Paul tells us about baptism. Baptism is where our sins are washed away, as we call on the name of the Lord. It doesn’t mean there is anything magical about the water. The power of forgiveness and washing away our sins is found in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Baptism is simply when we fully surrender to Him.

We talked about repentance earlier. We read where Peter said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out…”

Now, look at this connection with repentance and baptism that Peter makes in Acts 2. This is when Peter preached the very first gospel sermon as the church began.

Starting in verse 36, Peter said, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:36-38, NIV)

Again, repentance is key. But repentance doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It doesn’t happen alone. It happens in tandem with belief, and confession, and baptism.

Here’s the point…I know a lot of people want to argue about baptism. But if we just put aside all our preconceived ideas and let Scripture speak for itself, it becomes pretty clear that baptism is a big deal. It is just as big of a deal as confession. It is just as big of a deal as repentance. In fact, it’s all presented in Scripture as a package deal. It all happens together. It’s all part of how we surrender to Jesus. It’s all part of how we are connected with Him.

Now, there are some churches that seem to minimize or ignore baptism. And at the same time, there are other churches that seem to overemphasize baptism. Our very first core value here at Connect is it’s all about Jesus. Not it’s all about baptism. It’s all about Jesus. Baptism is just part of how we surrender to Jesus. It’s part of how we connect with Jesus. But it is an important part. We don’t leave out baptism, just like we don’t leave out confession or repentance.

So that brings us to this question…is this your next step? Is your next step to finally say, “Yes, I believe in Jesus?” Is your next step to confess your faith, to not be ashamed of what you believe about Jesus? Is your next step to repent, to say, “I’m turning away from everything else and I’m turning toward Jesus?” Is your next step to be baptized, repenting of your sin and calling on the Name of the Lord?

Maybe the best question is the one from Acts 22. “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16, NIV)

What are you waiting for? There’s no need to put it off anymore. There’s no need to wait. If this is your next step, we’re ready for you. Heck, we’ve got a pool that’s ready right now. We could go straight from here and you could be baptized this evening. What are you waiting for?

We’re all about connecting people with Jesus, and if this is your next step, we’re ready to take that step with you. It’s time to stop procrastinating. It’s time to stop making excuses. If this is your next step, the time to take it is now.

But maybe you’ve already taken this step. You’ve connected with Jesus through belief, confession, repentance, and baptism. But you’re not really connected with His church.

Go back to what Paul wrote in Philippians 2 again. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, [focus in on this part] then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2, NIV)

Paul starts with our connection with Jesus. But then he talks about a second connection that is critically important: our connection with the church.

In the church, we have a connection where we are “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Paul wrote this to the church in city of Philippi. This is God’s vision for how the church should operate. It is a picture of unity.

Have you heard about the secret menus that exist at a lot of different restaurants? If you haven’t, there’s a website you need to check out called hackthemenu.com. It lists all kinds of things that you can order at your favorite restaurants that aren’t on the official menu. Some of them sound awesome. Some of them sound awful. And some of them sound just over-the-top crazy.

Well, our son, Ryan, heard about one of these secret menu items, and he made it his mission in life to order one.

Have you heard of the Meat Mountain on the secret menu at Arby’s? It is a sandwich that contains every meat that Arby’s serves. It has chicken tenders, ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, corned beef, angus steak, brisket, cheddar cheese, roast beef, and because all of that is not quite enough, it’s topped with bacon.

Well, Ryan heard about this, and he was determined to try it. But he ran into a problem. This sandwich costs $10, and he knew there was no way that Nicki and I were going to pay that! But Ryan is no dummy. He figured out how to get this deal done. He conned his grandpa into buying it for him.

And it worked. Here’s Ryan with his big score. In case you’re wondering, he ate over half of it. If he ate anymore, he probably wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale.

I don’t know why, but I think the whole idea of a secret menu is kind of cool. And there are a few things that I’m going to try to order myself, especially at Starbucks and Chipotle. A few of theirs sound awesome.

From time to time, someone will ask me the secret of what is happening at Connect. They recognize that it’s something special, and they’ll ask about the secret. And really, the secret is no secret. The first thing I tell them is that it’s all about Jesus. That is and will always be the first core value of our church.

But shortly after that, I’ll talk about our unity. In many ways, our church reflects what Paul wrote to the Philippian church. We are “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2b, NIV)

If you want to know the ingredients on our secret menu, that’s it. And it’s really, really special. In fact, I know just how special it is, because it wasn’t always this way. I remember the days before our church relaunched as Connect Christian Church that were, honestly, pretty bad days. I remember days where, instead of being unified, the church was deeply divided. I remember days when I secretly hated going to church because I didn’t know who was going to give me the next gut punch as soon as they walked in the door.

And the memories of those days make these days all the more special. And it is why we are absolute guard dogs when it comes to our church’s unity. We will always be unified in our vision and our mission. Division is something we just won’t tolerate, because we remember the damage that it can do. We saw it firsthand.

Now, to make sure we all understand what we’re talking about, unity doesn’t mean uniformity. It doesn’t mean that everyone in our church always agrees with everyone else all the time. That would make us a church of robots instead of people. Unity means that, on the big stuff…on the essential stuff…we are in lockstep. And on the other stuff, we are free to disagree in love. That’s biblical unity. And that’s what we will guard with our lives here at Connect.

So here’s what that means. If there is a division that has cropped up between you and another partner here at Connect, deal with it. Tonight. We’ve got no time for that. Seek forgiveness. Extend forgiveness. Work to restore the relationship. We simply don’t have time for division. Our mission is too important. And our unity is too precious. If you need some help, talk to me. Talk to one of our elders. We’ll do whatever we can to help resolve the issue. The unity of our church matters that much.

When a church is divided, it becomes a laughingstock to our world. How can we possibly preach the gospel of grace and forgiveness to our world if we can’t even get along with each other? There are far, far too many churches who spend all their energy fighting with each other instead of fighting against the enemy. And Satan loves that.

Here at Connect, we’re committed to be the kind of church that Satan actually fears. A unified church that is on mission.

And if that’s the kind of church you’ve been looking for, then maybe partnership is your next step. It’s not enough to be connected to Jesus. Scripture is also very clear that we need to be connected with Jesus’ church. And if you’re ready to connect with a church that is on mission, we’re ready for you.

Here at Connect, we don’t have members like a lot of churches do. Instead, we have partners. And the reason is simple.

Members have rights. Partners have responsibilities.

An attitude of membership can lead to an attitude of entitlement. We can start to believe that we are owed certain things because of who we are, or what we do, or what we give.

Partners understand that it’s not all about us. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about the mission. And partnership means that we all do our part. We all work together to carry out the mission.

Our partnership commitment is very simple. First, and most importantly, partners must believe in Jesus. They have repented of their sin, they are unashamed to confess their faith in Jesus, and they have been immersed in the waters of baptism.

After that, partnership is a commitment that you will:

-Give generously

-Serve selflessly

-Share your story and invite others to church with you

-Pray for our church

This is the kind of people that make up Connect Christian Church. And if this is the kind of church you’ve been looking for, you can sign a partnership commitment card at our Connect Center tonight. You can go all in with Connect in our vision and in our mission.

But like I said last week, if Connect is not the right church for you, you need to connect with the one that is. The bottom line is that you need to be connected with the church. And that connection has to go beyond taking up a seat for an hour on Sunday. If that is the sum total of your connection with the church, you have a next step to take. It could be the step of partnership here at Connect.

It could be joining a Connect Group. We have small groups of people who meet throughout the week to minister to each other, help each other, encourage each other, and pray for each other.

Another of our core values here at Connect is growth and authentic community happen best in small groups. We put a crazy amount of effort and focus into our Sunday worship experiences, but we also understand that this isn’t the best vehicle to take us to the next level in our walk with Jesus. That happens best in a smaller group, where we can talk and share with each other. Where we can have a group of people to support us in the tough times. Where we can experience authentic community.

For some of you, I know that sounds like a stretch. Maybe you’re an introvert. This might surprise you, but I am, too. I really am. I’m an introvert doing an extrovert’s job. But I also understand that I need community. I need that. So do you.

If your next step is to get plugged into that kind of community, talk with Brian Morrissey after church. He not only leads us in worship every week, he also oversees our Connect Groups. And he would love to get you plugged into a group.

The point of all of this is that your connection to the church is essential. And it’s got to go beyond just showing up for an hour on Sunday. That’s a great place to start, but after that becomes a consistent part of your walk with Jesus, there is a next step to take. That next step is to take your connection with His church to the next level.

Now, I’ll freely admit that the church isn’t perfect. The church has a perfect Lord, but it is filled with very imperfect people. Our church here at Connect is no different. We are very, very, very imperfect. In fact, I’ll even make you this promise. If you make a connection with our church, the day will come when we will disappoint you. I will disappoint you as your pastor. Some other leader will disappoint you. Some partner here at Connect will disappoint you. It’s going to happen. And the reason it’s going to happen is because we are not perfect.

I love the way Eugene Peterson said it. He said, “There’s nobody who doesn’t have problems with the church, because there’s sin in the church. But there’s no other place to be a Christian except the church.”

The church is not perfect. Our church is not perfect. But the church is still God’s plan for reaching the world for Christ. The church is Plan A, and there is no Plan B.

But in spite of all the imperfections of the church, here’s the great news. God is doing something in the church. He is doing something in our church. He is doing something in the lives and families that make up our church.

Listen to what Scripture says in Hebrews 10. “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14, NIV)

Break that verse down, because this is awesome. “By one sacrifice.” That one sacrifice was Jesus’ death on the cross. His death was the full and final payment for our sin. It is and it always will be all about Jesus.

“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever…”

Jesus’ death makes us perfect in God’s eyes. When God looks at us, He no longer sees our sin. He doesn’t see our brokenness and our mess and our imperfections. If we are connected to Christ, God looks at us and sees the perfection of His Son. And Hebrews tells us that this is how God will see us forever. For all eternity.

But what about the here and now? God sees the perfection of Jesus when He looks at us, but what about when we look at us? What about when other people look at us?

“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

We are being made holy. We are not holy yet, but God is doing something in us. He is working in us. He is changing us. If you want to use the theological word, He is sanctifying us.

Our church isn’t perfect. It is filled with very imperfect people. In a lot of ways, we’re a mess. But God is up to something here. He is doing something here. He is working in our lives and in our families and in our church. We are being made holy.

And this is why the connections we’ve talked about tonight are so critical. We desperately need our connection to Jesus and our connection to His church, because:

Our connection is our perfection.

We are connected to Christ, who forgives us and cleanses us and frees us. He takes all our sin, and we take on His perfection.

And through the community of the church, God works in us. He grows us. He stretches us. He changes us.

None of this can happen in isolation. None of this can happen on our own. It’s all about the connection. It’s all about our connection with Christ and our connection with His church. Our connection is our perfection.

Author: Mike Edmisten

Senior Pastor